Valerian Root

Valerian has been used since the time of the ancient Greeks and Romans and they gave this plant the name “Phu” because of its unpleasant smell. Today it is a common remedy for insomnia and anxiety but if you’re hoping for a nice, calming cup of tea you will be sadly disappointed by its bitter taste and “old sock” smell.

Valerian is such a fascinating plant with a long history in medicine and can be found in many tales. It is one of my favorite herbs, granted a smelly one, but it sure does work.

One of the first know medicinal uses of valerian root dates back to the time of Hippocrates in ancient Greece. During the same time in Greece, it was also believed that if you hung valerian root in your home it would help repel evil spirits.

In Nordic mythology, it is said that the goddess Hertha used a whip made from valerian to make the stag she rode to run faster. The Celts also hung bags of valerian root in their homes but not to ward off evil spirits, but lightning.Continue reading →

Queen Anne’s Lace

This beautiful flower is promoted as a wild edible but it has a long history, deadly look-a-likes, and is even the mother of modern-day carrots!

It is believed that Queen Anne’s Lace, also known as Wild Carrot, originated in Afghanistan and is now native to Europe. It is naturalized in North America but it is not a native and is considered a weed in many places. One awesome thing about this plant is that it is the ancestor of the modern day carrot. If we take a look at the scientific name for the cultivated carrot it is Daucus carota var. sativus. What differs the wild carrot from the cultivated carrot is that the cultivated carrot is a variety (var.) of Daucus carota that was bred to be larger, sweeter, and different colors. This means that the root of Queen Anne’s Lace is definitely edible!

This plant has a lot of names but Queen Anne’s Lace is one of the best-known names for this wild carrot. One legend says that the flower was named after King James I’s wife, Anne, who absolutely loved this plant. She held a contest to see who could produce a piece of lace that best represented the flower. She, of course, won the contest but while making the lace she pricked her finger. The blood from her finger fell in the center of the lace pattern and became the reddish purple floret in the center of the white flower. It is also believed that the flower is named after St. Anne, patron saint of lacemakers who was also the mother of the Virgin Mary.

Queen Anne’s Lace has a couple of medicinal uses but it isn’t a very popular herb anymore. It is best known for its edible root and its seed’s abortion properties. The seed has been used for centuries as a “morning after” contraceptive. Today it is mostly used as a culinary food, eating the root and frying the flower.

🕱 Poison Hemlock 🕱

Queen Anne’s Lace actually has quite a few look-a-likes. A lot of plants in the parsley/carrot family (Apiaceae or Umbelliferae) have very similar flowers so it can be a bit confusing. The one plant you absolutely have to know the difference between is poison hemlock (Conium maculatum). This plant is poisonous and can be fatal. It killed Socrates and was once used in Greece as a method of execution. You can often find poison hemlock growing alongside Queen Anne’s Lace which means it is extremely vital that you can identify both plants before harvesting. Do not harvest the plant or eat any part of it if you are not sure!

Poison hemlock has a smooth stem (QAL is hairy), as well as being hollow and has purple spotting (QAL is all green). It can grow to be 2-9 feet tall and when the leaves are bruised it emits a bad smell. It is often confused with Queen Anne’s Lace and wild parsnip (Pastinaca sativa).

Believe it or not, poison hemlock has been used as a medicine before. However, it is recommended that you do not consume any part of the plant. Side effects and toxicities include: increased saliva, burning of the digestive tract, drowsiness, muscle pain, rapid swelling and stiffening of muscles, kidney damage, rapid breakdown of muscle tissue and release of muscle tissue byproducts into the blood, rapid heart rate followed by a decreased heart rate, loss of speech, paralysis, unconsciousness, heart, lung, and kidney failure, and death.

 

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Queen Anne’s Lace

 

Profile

Common Name: Queen Anne’s Lace, Wild Carrot
Scientific NameDaucus carota
Identification:
Biennial
Leaves- alternate, up to 4″ long, pinnate-pinnatifid, light-med green top & smooth, underside light green & smooth-slightly hairy
Stem- light green, sometimes has a red tint, vertically veined, hallow, smooth-hairy
Flower- umbel, flat clusters, white, 1 small deep purple floret in the center, 3 forked bracts beneath
Height- 2-4 feet
Harvest Time: June-September
Parts Edible: Roots, Seeds, Flowers
Found: Native to Europe & SW Asia, found throughout North America; waste places, roadsides, full sun

Historic Uses

-Root use traditionally to get rid of urinary stones and worms
-Seeds were a folk remedy once used as a “morning after” contraceptive
-It was once believed that eating the purple flower in the center of the flower could cure epileptic seizures
-An infusion of the leaves was used to treat cystitis and kidney stone formation
-Flower tea has been used to treat diabetes
-The root has been used to delay menstruation
-An infusion made from the seeds has been used to treat edema, flatulent indigestion, and menstrual problems

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Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Properties of the entire plant: anthelmintic, carminative, deobstruent, diuretic, galactagogue, ophthalmic, stimulant

Leaves

Contain: porphyrins

Roots

Properties: anthelmintic, diuretic, emmenagogue, antioxidant, bactericidal

Seeds

Properties: abortifacient, diuretic, carminative, contraceptive, emmenagogue, anthelmintic

Preparations

-Are parts of the plant can be eaten and have been fried and added to soups
-Dried roots can be used as a coffee substitute
-Essential oil from seed has been used in perfumery and as a food flavoring
-Leaves, roots, and flowers used in making tea

Precautions

-Do not take any part of Queen Anne’s Lace/ Wild Carrot while pregnant. The seeds, especially, can cause menstruation and abortions.
-Avoid all parts of the plant while breastfeeding as not much information is available as to how safe it might be.
-Could cause an allergic reaction in those allergic to birch, mugwort, spices, and celery
-Could cause dermatitis and blisters
-Queen Anne’s Lace/ Wild Carrot could interact with the following medications:

  • Estrogens
  • Lithium
  • High blood pressure medications
  • Medications that increase sensitivity to sunlight

-Queen Anne’s Lace/ Wild Carrot could make worsen kidney issues and could increase the risk of sunburns
-Stop using two weeks before surgery

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Harvest

-Harvest roots in spring for best tasting roots, first-year roots are also better tasting
-Harvest flowers throughout the summer
-Seeds can be harvested in the autumn

Recipes

Queen Anne’s Lace Flower Jelly
Fried Queen Anne’s Lace Flowers
Wild Carrot Cake Herbal Recipe
Wild Carrot Seed Ale

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

Sources

Wild Carrot Identification
Original Wild Carrot – Queen Anne’s Lace
Web MD Wild Carrot
PFAF Daucus carota
Web MD Poison Hemlock
Commoner with a Regal Name

Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. Licensing is not available in the United States for an herbalist to practice herbal medicine.  If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. Every person is different and I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for everyone.  You are responsible for your own health and any decision to alter your health is your own choice. Please consult a doctor before making any serious health changes.

Spring Wild Harvest List: Midwestern & Eastern U.S.

Foraging can be quite exciting but do you know what can be harvested during the different times of the year? This list is for the midwestern and eastern U.S. since I’m from Ohio these are the plants available in my area and surrounding areas.

Spring is always so exciting because the snow is finally gone and we start to see green again. There are so many flowers that pop up in spring and it’s just a beautiful time of year. There are so many plants that can be wild-harvested in spring so this is by no means a complete list of plants and it does not include mushrooms.

Before we get into the plant list let’s talk about wild harvesting.

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

The most important thing to do is to make sure you correctly identify the plants you are harvesting. Some plants have poisonous look-alikes so you must be 100% sure. If you aren’t sure, don’t harvest or eat it! Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North America is a great field guide for medicinal plants in the area. Also, look at joining some online identification groups to get second opinions. Facebook and Reddit are a great place to find some of these groups.

Spring Wild Harvestable Plants

Pigweed (Amaranthus spp.)- young shoots
Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)- roots
Wild Ginger (Asarum spp.)- rhizome
Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)- young shoots & leaves
Chicory (Cichorium intybus)- young crowns & taproot
Wild Lettuce (Lactuca canadensis)- leaves/young shoots
Sow Thistle (Sonchus spp.)- young leaves
Dandelion (Taraxacum spp.)-young crowns, taproot, flower
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)-young shoots
Sweet Birch (Betula lenta)- sap & twigs
Rock Cress (Arabis spp.)- young leaves & buds
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)- rhizome & leaves
Wintercress (Barbarea verna)- Leaves & buds
Mustard (Brassica nigra)- leaves & buds
Shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa pastoris)- young leaves
Water-cress (Rorippa nasturtium aquaticum)- leaves & shoot
Chickweed (Stellaria media)- shoots
Lamb’s-quarters (Chenopodium spp.)- young shoots
Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)- leaves
Indian potato (Apios americana)- tubers
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)- flowers and shoots
Spicebush (Lindera benzoin)- twigs
Sassafras (Sassafras albidum)- roots
Canadian Onion (Allium canadense)- leaves & bulb
Indian cucumber (Medeola virginiana)- rhizome
Evening primrose (Oenothera spp.)- root
Pokeberry (Phytolacca americana)- young shoots
Pine (Pinus spp.)- needles
Plantain (Plantago spp.)- young leaves
Dock (Rumex spp.)- young leaves
Purslane (Portulaca oleracea)- shoots
Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris)- leaves & buds
Rose (Rosa spp.)- flowers
Black/raspberry (Rubus spp.)- leaves
Greenbrier (Smilax spp.)- young shoots
Basswood (Tilia americana)- flowers
Cattail (Typha spp.)- rhizome, young shoot, young spike
Hackberry (Celtis occidentalis)- fruit
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)- young shoot
Violet (Viola spp.)- young leaves & flowers
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)- leaves & flowers
Redbud (Cercis canadensis)- flowers
Ramps (Allium tricoccum)- bulbs & leaves

Click on the common name of the plant to learn more about the plant, its identification, and its uses! Feel free to comment or send me a message if there’s a plant you think should be added to the list. What plants are you planning on harvesting this spring?

Roses

The rose: queen of the flowers and symbol of love. This flower is more than a gift to show your love to someone but a great medicinal plant that has been used for centuries.

Legends and lore about roses go back over 3,000 years. The Greeks believed that roses formed after the goddess Aphrodite got her foot stuck on a thorn, which bled and formed the rose while trying to help Adonis. The Turks believed that red roses obtained their color from the blood of Muhammad after his blood landed on the flower and stained it. It is also said that roses did not get their thorns until the fall of Eden.

The Egyptians were known for their perfumes, which often included roses, but most notably is how Cleopatra used them. It is said that she once had the floors of her palace covered in roses petals that were knee-deep! She hoped that the romantic aroma of the flower would help her win over Mark Anthony when he came to visit her. Whether it was the flowers or Cleopatra herself, she did win him over.

The modern rose can be traced back to China and now can be found throughout the world. There are some native species to other parts of the world including Europe and North America. Today the rose is best known for its fragrance and it’s fruit, rose hips, that are high in vitamin C. All parts of the rose have been used in medicine and have been used to treat anything from topical injuries, uterus issues, and the cold and flu.

Vitamin C

There are over 100 different species of roses so that means there are over 100 different types of rose hips available. Not every rose is the same so that means that not every rosehip will the same either. One study tested 11 different species to find which one had the highest amount of ascorbic acid (vitamin C). They found that the species Rosa villosa has the highest source of vitamin C.

Vitamin C is important to have because it is water-soluble and does not store in the body. This vitamin is responsible for the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. It is used by the body when healing wounds and repairing bones. There is a possibility that vitamin C could also help lower the risks of certain diseases or improve symptoms of chronic diseases.

Medicinal Roses

There are a number of different rose species available, but there are some species that have been used in medicine and for other purposes for centuries. The rose hips from the species Rosa villosa has the highest concentration of vitamin C but here are some other roses that are commonly used:

  • White Rose (Rosa X alba)
  • Dog Rose (R. canina)
  • Provence Rose (R. centifolia)
  • China Rose (R. chinensis)
  • Damask Rose (R. damascena)
  • Eglantine Rose (R. eglanteria)
  • French Rose (R. gallica)
  • Cherokee Rose (R. laevigata)
  • Japanese Rose (R. rugosa)

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Profile

Common Name: Rose
Scientific Name: Rosa spp.
Identification:
Flowers: colors vary, single flower or in clusters
Leaves: alternate, pinnate, 5-9 leaflets
Fruit: turns from green/yellow to red, sizes vary, hard or pulpy
Harvest Time: Spring- first autumn frost
Parts Edible: Petals, hips (fruit)
Found: Native to mostly China, found throughout the world; likes damp ground

Historic Uses

-Rose petals have been used as tonics and mouthwashes to treat catarrhs, sore throats, mouth sores, and stomach issues
-Roots were once used to make teas
-In ancient Greece, rose petals mixed with oil was used to treat uterus problems
-In Ayurvedic medicine, rose petal poultices have been used to treat skin wounds and inflammation and rose water was used as a laxative
-During high middle ages in Germany rose hips were used to treat just about anything
-Native Americans mixed the petals with bear grease to treat mouth sores, powder petals were used t treat sores and blisters, and rose water made with rainwater was used on sore eyes
-Native Americans also used the inner bark of the rose to treat boils
-Since the 1600’s roses have been used to treat headaches, dizziness, mouth sores, menstrual cramps, diarrhea, tuberculosis, coughs, vomiting, and to strengthen the stomach

Vitamins, Minerals, & More

Petals

-Quercitrin
-Volatile oils
-Colorants

Properties: astringent, carminative, diuretic, laxative, ophthalmic

Hips

-Vitamins A, B, C, E, K
-Organic acids
-Pectin
-Flavonoids
-Essential fatty acids

Properties: anti-inflammatory, astringent, carminative, diuretic, laxative, ophthalmic

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Preparations

-Rose hips are used in making teas, syrups, jams, jellies, and wine
-Hips are also used in baking and cooking
-Petals are made into rose water
-Oil from the petals are used in perfumes, soaps, candles, and more
-Rose petals are often candied and used in desserts or fresh salads
-Both rose hips and petals can be found in many beauty products
-Dried flowers are used in decor and potpourri

Precautions

-Consuming too much rose petals and rose hips can cause diarrhea due to too much vitamin C
-Other side effects may include:  nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, stomach cramps, fatigue, headache, inability to sleep
-Do not give to children under two years of age
-Rose hips could interact with many medications talk to your doctor before using rose hips if on:

  •  Antacids
  • Estrogen pills
  • Antipsychotics
  • Diuretics
  • Blood thinners
  • Anti-Inflammatories

-Rose hips could interact with any of the following conditions: diabetes, blood disorders, kidney disorders, heart attacks

Harvest

-Flowers should be harvested during the spring and summer after they have bloomed
-Rosehips should be harvested in the fall when the hips are orange to red
-Hips will become sweeter after the first frost but harvest before they begin to dry out
-Soft rose hips are spoiled

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Recipes

Candied Rose Petals
Rose Petal Jam
Rose Hip Whiskey Smash
DIY Rose Water
Wild Rose Petal Sangria

Practicing Sustainable Wild Harvesting

  1. Only harvest plants you know are safe and can identify
  2. Only harvest plants in safe areas that are not contaminated or polluted
  3. Do not harvest on private property without permission
  4. Harvest no more than 10% or use the method: take 1 leave 2
  5. Know how to handle and prepare the plants you are harvesting
  6. Always check the legal status of the plant you want to harvest (is it endangered?)

Sources

Rose Hip Benefits
PFAF Dog Rose
Web MD Rose Hips
The History of Roses
Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid)
-Carr, Anna, William H. Hylton, and Claire Kowalchik. Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs. N.p.: Rodale, 1998. 422-27. Print.
-Castleman, Michael. The New Healing Herbs: The Essential Guide to More than 125 of Nature’s Most Potent Herbal Remedies. 3rd ed. N.p.: Rodale, 2010. 403-05. Print.

Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. Licensing is not available in the United States for an herbalist to practice herbal medicine.  If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. Every person is different and I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for everyone.  You are responsible for your own health and any decision to alter your health is your own choice. Please consult a doctor before making any serious health changes.

White Pine

White pines are one of the largest trees in the Eastern United States. They play an important role in the lumber industry but have had many different uses throughout the centuries.

The tallest white pine in the United States is located at Mohawk Trail State Forest in Charlemont, MA. It stands at 174 feet tall and before the settlers cut most of the white pines dow down they stood as tall as 230 feet. Due to their large size, this made them optimal for building ships. It’s a possibility that white pine lumber played a role in sparking the American revolution. Since Britain was short on lumber, King George I claimed the tallest white pines for the British Royal Navy. Three hatchet slashes known as The King’s Broad Arrow was used to mark the King’s trees. The settlers wanted to keep their livelihood alive and disregarded the marks and cut them down anyway. After finding out what happened, the British tried to charge those who stole the trees and the town rioted.

White pine trees have a long historic use by the Native Americans. The Ojibwa Indians have a legend about a chief whose dying wish was for his son to plant a seed from a tree he collected a long distance from their home every time a child in the tribe was born. His son did as his father wished and planted these seeds every time a child was born. After some time these trees grew into great white pine trees and he began to collect seeds from these trees. Continue reading →

Mistletoe

Who are you planning on meeting under the mistletoe this Christmas? Besides inducing a kiss, mistletoe has once been used medicinally and is even being studied today for its role in treating cancer.

Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant which means that it obtains all the nutrients it needs from the host plant. They grow on deciduous trees including maples, oaks, poplars, apple trees, and birch. It is said that mistletoe grown on oaks have the best medicinal properties. The plant does not kill its host but the host must be at least 20 years old and becomes weakened by the mistletoe.

There are many species of mistletoe but there are two that we will be discussing here. Phoradendron leucarpum is native to North America and has some history of being used as medicine. Viscum album is native to Europe and is best known for its medicinal uses. It’s possible that both species could be used interchangeably but most of the medicinal information we have on mistletoe is from Viscum album.Continue reading →

American Persimmons

Kaki persimmons, or Japanese persimmons, are popular fruits available in autumn but did you know there is a persimmon tree native to North America?

The American Persimmon was a fascinating plant too early settlers but were actively used by Native American for both food and medicine. Persimmon loaves were often gifted to the settlers by the Native Americans. It soon became a favorite North American fruit. It wasn’t long before more recipes started to include persimmons.

There are many types of persimmon found around the world. Diospyros kaki is the most popular cultivated species that is native to Japan, China, and Korea. Kaki persimmons are what you can normally find in the store. Diospyros virginiana is native to eastern North America and not cultivated for its fruit. Their fruit is also delicious and a great food source for wildlife and pollen for honey bees. In the U.S., the American persimmon is grown for its wood.Continue reading →

American Holly

Holly is a very common Christmas ornament but it is more than just a pretty evergreen.

When the pilgrims came over to America they found American hollies growing along the coast of the new world. American holly looks very similar to English holly which was a symbol of Christmas in England and Europe. It quickly became a popular plant in North America. Even George Washinton was a fan of them, planting more than a dozen at Mt. Vernon.

Hollies are much like ginkgos in the sense that they are dioecious, they have separate male and female trees. So, only the female trees produce those pretty red berries. They are also a great wildlife tree, as 18 species of birds love to eat the berries.Continue reading →

Peppermint

Peppermint is one of the most popular mint flavors today. Not only does it have a great flavor and scent, but it also has medicinal uses.

Peppermint is actually a naturally occurring hybrid of watermint and spearmint! It has been used since the time of the ancient Egyptians but wasn’t cultivated in Europe until the 17th century.

The genus Mentha is named after the Greek nymph, Minthe. Minthe fell in love with Hades, the god of the underworld, and they started an affair. Hades’ wife, Persephone, found out about the affair and decided to take revenge against Minthe. There are a few endings to this story. Out of anger and jealousy, Persephone murdered Minthe and Hades brought her back in the form of a mint plant. Another ending says that Persephone tried stomping on Minthe with all her might and instead of killing her, she actually turned her into a mint plant. Either way, in the end, the nymph Minthe was turned into a mint plant.Continue reading →

Lavender

Lavender is one of the most popular scents as well as one of the most popular herbs used in natural medicine. It has a long history and a wonderful smell with many benefits.

Lavender is a species of the mint family that is native to the Mediterranean. Today, it is grown and used around the world. Lavandula angustifolia, or English Lavender, is the most commonly used lavender for culinary and medicinal purposes but there are many different types of lavender.

Lavender was first farmed by the Arabs. They were also the first ones to make distilleries for making lavender essential oils. Arabian physicians cherished lavender for its ability to clean wounds and heal. They also used lavender to treat the nervous system, stress, insomnia, and to kill germs.

The Greeks and Romans also used lavender much in the same way that the Arabs did. They sold and traded lavender and lavender oil along the spice trail and eventually took it all the way to England. For the Egyptians, it was used in their mummification process and as a perfume. It is said that Cleopatra used lavender to seduce men and that lavender was found in the tomb of King Tutankhamen.Continue reading →